Years ago I was on the receiving end of a surprise blessing. I had been talking with the Catholic priest from a neighboring parish, and the whole conversation had been a gift of grace. Just as I was about to leave, he reached out his hands–placing one hand on my shoulder and the other on my head. And then, without any notice, he blessed me in the name of Christ: “Remember that you are loved. Remember that the ministry we share in this neighborhood is life-giving. Don’t forget how much God loves you just because you are alive. You are God’s beloved child. And may God’s peace be with you as you go.”
Though I have long-forgotten the exact words of Father Breen’s blessing, it was something close to that. But while I may have forgotten the spoken words, I can still sense his blessing sounding deep within me and reminding me who I am. Some days I can even feel the weight of his hands, just as I still feel the hands placed upon me at my ordination.
Symbolically, I get to do for the gathered congregation at the close of worship each week what Father Breen did for me. I lift my arms in blessing and announce the same good news of God’s deep and abiding presence and peace in each of our lives. It has always been one of the most powerful acts I offer as a Minister of the Word and Sacrament.
I can’t help but wonder, however, about what a difference it would make in our life together if we could recover the art of blessing. And I’m not just talking about the “official” blessings in our worship, but the blessing each of us can share with those around us day after day in the simple and profound moments of our life.
To invoke a blessing–aloud or in your heart–is to open the door to transformation. In blessing another, we offer them the much-needed reminder that they are loved and cherished by a God who loves them and will not let them go. In a strange way, though, it also has a way of reminding us of that truth for the other–and for ourselves.